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What Is Visual Training?

Optometric Visual Training, sometimes called Vision Therapy or VT, is a part of optometric care devoted to developing, improving and enhancing people's visual performance.


Over several decades, behavioral optometrists have developed and used visual training-in combination with appropriate, judiciously selected lenses-to:

  • Prevent vision and eye problems from developing

  • Remediate or compensate for vision and eye problems which have already developed

  • Develop the visual skills needed to achieve more effectively at school, work, or play

  • Enhance functioning on tasks demanding sustained visual effort



Since the 1920’s, Syntonics, also known as Optometric Photo Therapy, has been successfully used by optometrists to treat and improve functioning in patients living with vision problems. Syntonics uses frequencies (colors) of visible light, aimed into the eyes, to increase visual information processing and overall visual performance. Research has shown that Light Therapy is a powerful tool in treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. And that Optometric Photo Therapy is successful at expanding peripheral vision, and improvement in memory, behavior, and mood.


Syntonics works by increasing the constricted visual fields of individuals suffering from Strabismus, Amblyopia, convergence issues, learning disorders, emotional issues, as well as traumatic brain injuries. Retinal light receptors on the back of the eye, connect directly to non-visual neural centers like the hypothalamus and pineal glands in the brain. These centers influence hormonal, chemical, and electrical balances, which affect all mind-body functions, including vision. By receiving specific light frequencies through their eyes, patients experience dramatic changes in their vision, bodies, and minds.


Dr. Getzell is doing advanced work in Syntonics.  His office research has found clinical applications of Syntonics that include helping patients with not only increasing their peripheral vision, but by using light of different colors he is able to balance the autonomic nervous system.  The autonomic nervous system is divided into two branches.  The sympathetic portion is known as ‘fight or flight,’ or getting into the action branch.  The parasympathetic is known as the ‘getting back to rest’ branch.  When these two branches are not in sync, the following is often exhibited:  anxiety, knee jerk reactions, lack of energy, more sleep required, body tension in the shoulders, neck and back area, etc.  Dr. Getzell has been working with many patients and non patients with SFL, an advanced Syntonics regimen he created, which has been very helpful in dramatically improving or eliminating these issues.


Traumatic Brain Injury and Vision

A traumatic brain injury is an attack on the brain and can come in many different forms. Strokes, severe illness, neurological dysfunctions, and blows to the head can all result in cognitive, physical, motor and sensory impairments. The accompanying motor and sensory issues can dramatically alter the vision system. Many different illnesses can have dramatic effects on the vision system. Problems with eye tracking, teaming, and visual-motor issues can all be introduced by sickness.  Often, doctors tell patients that they must live with the vision problems associated with their type of brain injury. But with Visual Training, performance lenses, and Syntonics, many of the following symptoms can be eliminated or greatly improved:

  • Double Vision

  • Headaches when reading or working on a computer

  • Blurred Vision

  • Difficulty maintaining attention

  • Difficulty with memory tasks

  • Difficulty with comprehension

  • Reduction or loss of a visual field

  • Coordination, balance, and movement issues

  • Disorganization

  • Distractibility


Primitive Reflexes

Primitive Reflexes control a baby’s movement in the first year of life and are essential to building a strong foundation for the development of motor, sensory, and cognitive skills. These involuntary movements allow the fetus and infant to survive and explore their surroundings safely. Triggered by stimuli from the environment, these reflexes help the infant to adjust from the ‘helpless’ state, to a more controlled and autonomous behavior. As the infant gets older, these reflexes are gradually integrated into the brain.


If signs of primitive reflexes persist past the first year, the child will experience many difficulties and develop energy taxing, compensating behaviors. This lack of healthy development leads to mild to severe learning and performance challenges. We test for and provide integration training for retained primitive reflexes in our office, because retention of these reflexes often creates symptoms that mimic the symptoms of a learning disorder. 


Symptoms of Retained Primitive Reflexes

  • Children feel a lack of control over their environment

  • Children can be emotionally unstable and prone to tantrums, hyperactivity, impulsivity, anxiety, and developmental delays

  • Children can suffer from motion sickness, poor balance and poor coordination


Attention and Learning Disorder or Vision Problem?

Vision problems in children and adults are frequently misdiagnosed as learning disabilities, central auditory processing problems, sensory processing disorders, and AD(H)D. Once these inaccurate diagnoses are made and treatment is instituted, parents and teachers are often still at their wit’s end trying to understand why Johnnie or Susie continue to struggle academically, and how to help them. His eyes are healthy and her sight is fine according to ‘conventional eye exams’. So where does the problem lie?


Learning-related vision issues are often referred to as hidden vision problems. Children may be able to see clearly, but their brains may not understand or know how to process the information their eyes have gathered. Vision is a complex brain mechanism involving perceiving, processing, and performing. A child or adult suffering from learning-related vision problems may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Bumping into objects

  • Tripping or falling often- several times a week

  • Spilling liquids

  • Exhibiting poor eye contact

  • Being unaware of surroundings i.e. things often have to be pointed out to them

  • Head tilt or turning exhibited when in conversation or looking for detail

  • Short attention span

  • More easily distracted than peers

  • Showing minimal interest in coloring or drawing

  • Difficulty following directions

  • Messy eater

  • Needing to touch and feel things

  • Eye-hand coordination difficulties

  • Confusing spatial directions, i.e. up/down or left/right


Some children and adults are genetically gifted and move their bodies well. However, they have not developed adequate visual skills, and prefer sports where they control the action, e.g. bicycling, ice skating or hiking. These children and adults do not do as well in ball and team sports, and tend to avoid or show little interest in ball and team activities.


In working with people with learning related vision problems, it is important to take into consideration cognitive intelligence.  Cognitive intelligence is made up of the genetics we receive from our parents, nurturing or how we surround children with conversation and learning opportunities, and lastly how the child interacts with his or her environment.  Thus, some children who are very bright because of their genetic endowment can read at grade level, but have poor organizational skills or are unaware of their environment.

Behavioral Optometry, Ltd.

Jeffrey Getzell, OD, FCOVD, FCSO

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